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Road America 200 (1982, 1987, 1989) Provimi Veal 200 (1983-1985) Race for Life 200 (1986) Briggs & Stratton 200 (1988) Texaco/Havoline 200 (1990-1999) Motorola 220 (2000-2002) Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America (2003) Champ Car Grand Prix of Road America (2004) Grand Prix of Road America (2006) Generac Grand Prix (2007) Kohler Grand Prix (2016-2018) REV Group Grand Prix at Road America (2019-2021)
The CART Indy car series first visited Road America in 1982. Road America was one of several road and street races that were added to the series during the 1980s. Immediately, the race became a popular event, owing much to the challenging, competitive, and picturesque nature of the course. Along with Milwaukee, the CART series for many years featured two stops annually in the state of Wisconsin.
Since its inception, Road America has been the longest track utilized on the Indy car circuit. At 4.048 miles (6.515 km), fuel mileage has been a deciding factor in many races. On more than one occasion, competitors have run out of fuel within sight of victory, occasionally leading to surprise winners. In some years, rain has been a factor, again adding a difficult challenge to even the most experienced drivers.
Throughout nearly its entire history as part of the CART/CCWS series calendar, the race was scheduled for either August or September, usually late in the season. The race was oftentimes a pivotal race in the championship hunt. The race began as a 50-lap/200-mile race, but was later lengthened. In 2007 only, the race was paired in a double-header weekend with the ALMSRoad America 500.
The high speeds obtained on the course have seen several major crashes. A. J. Foyt went off in turn one in 1990, and nearly ended his career due to severe leg and ankle injuries. During a test session in 2006, Cristiano da Matta hit a deer, suffering a subdural hematoma. Katherine Legge suffered one of the most severe crashes during the 2006 race. the car lost a rear wing going into the Turn 11 Kink, and flipped into the catchfence.
In February 2003, CART officials filed a lawsuit against the promoters of the race, stating they had failed to pay sanctioning fees due from the previous year's race, and failed to make payments due for the 2003 race. On March 11, series officials cancelled the race outright.
The reaction among media and fans was very negative, as many believed the series was dropping one of its marquee events. A few weeks later, the track issued a countersuit against CART, stating that the sanctioning body broke the contract by cancelling the race. Mario Andretti stepped in to mediate, and in April the two sides came together to reinstate the event. The race was renamed the "Mario Andretti Grand Prix" in his honor.
After coming back for two more seasons, Road America was left off the 2005 Champ Car schedule due to lack of sponsorship and declining attendance. Promoters, however, were able to bring the race back for 2006 and 2007. The track was to be part of the 2008 Champ Car schedule, but it became a casualty of the 2008 open wheel unification. The event went on hiatus for nearly a decade.
After several years of speculation, the race was revived as part of the IndyCar Series in 2016 to a rousing success. It essentially replaced the Milwaukee 250 on the schedule.
The father and son duo of Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr., both champions in the CART series and multiple time Indianapolis 500 winners, notably failed to ever win a race at Road America, in some occasions with shocking heartbreak. That is in stark contrast to the rival Andretti family, which scored six wins at the track, and only one win (1969) at Indy.
Al Sr. ran out of fuel on the final lap while leading in 1982. Al Jr. was leading handily in 1985 until he lost control in a sudden rain shower, crashed and broke his ankle. Unser Jr. crashed again in 1986, and ran out of fuel in 1988. In 1991, Unser Jr. narrowly got beat out by Michael Andretti in the final two laps. In 1996, Unser Jr. blew his engine on the final lap, two corners short of victory.
Al Unser Jr. also started on the pole in a Can-Am race at Road America, but broke the transmission on the second lap.
1982: The first CART Indy car race at Road America saw a wild second half and a surprise winner. Mario Andretti and Bobby Rahal battled for the lead early in the first half. Andretti eventually pulled out to a 28-second lead until gearbox problems put him out on lap 29. Rahal took the lead on lap 30, and was leading when rain began to fall on lap 38. With Al Unser Sr. and rookie Héctor Rebaque in second and third, Rahal shockingly ran out of fuel on lap 45. Unser took the lead, but he too was low on fuel. Unser ran out of fuel on the final lap just after taking the white flag. Rebaque led the final lap and scored his first and only win in Indy car competition. Polesitter Rick Mears ran a steady fifth, and secured enough points to clinch the 1982 CART Championship.
1983: Josele Garza's car failed to crank on the grid due to a faulty kill switch. He joined the field dead last, and charged to fourth place by lap 38. In spectacular fashion, Garza passed Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, and Al Unser Jr. to take the lead on lap 40. Unser Jr. went to the grass as Garza passed him, causing Andretti and Rahal to take evasive action. Four laps later, however, Garza spun out, handing the lead to Rahal. For the second year in a row Rahal was in sight of victory, but ran low on fuel, this time dropping out on lap 47. Mario Andretti, despite clutch and gearbox issues, took the victory, his first in Indy car competition since 1981.
1984: Mario Andretti won the pole position, led 34 of the 50 laps, and dominated the race to win for the second consecutive year. Andretti's nearest competitors all suffered trouble, allowing Andretti to cruise to victory. Danny Sullivan suffered an engine fire, Bobby Rahal experienced fuel pickup problems, and Roberto Guerrero twice spun off course. Andretti won by a margin of over 1 minute and 14 seconds and the race went caution-free. Tom Sneva led the points standings going into the race, but blew an engine on lap 33. Andretti took over the points lead, and would go on to win the 1984 CART championship.
1985: Al Unser Jr. took the lead on lap 16 and was leading the race when rain started falling on lap 35. Unser Jr. was headed for the pits to put on rain tires, but lost control in the wet conditions and crashed in turn 13. Unser suffered a fractured ankle and wound up 17th. Jacques Villeneuve took the lead on lap 37, but moments later spun out in turn 5. He kept the engine running, and pulled away without losing the lead. Villeneuve led the final 14 laps to score his first and only Indy car win. It was the second time in four years a driver had scored their first career win at Road America. Substituting for the injured Mario Andretti, Alan Jones finished third, his one and only Indy car start.
1986: The race was scheduled for Sunday September 21. Morning rain made the track damp, but the race was started on time with all cars utilizing rain tires. Just seconds after the green flag fell, a huge downpour flooded the track and brought visibility down to near zero. Al Unser Jr. and Raul Boesel crashed in turn 11, Roberto Guerrero spun out, and Dominic Dobson hit a guardrail. Officials red flagged the race on lap 3, and postponed the resumption for Saturday October 4. After the two-week delay, the race picked up on lap 3. A light rain and cold temperatures made for difficult conditions. Of the 23 cars that restarted the race, 19 were involved in crashes or spins. Danny Sullivan was leading the race on lap 32 when he spun out in turn 5. Moments later, the yellow came out for a heavy rain shower. Eighth place runner Emerson Fittipaldi quickly ducked into the pits for fuel. As the rest of the field shuffled through pits stops during the yellow, Fittipaldi, Roberto Moreno, and Jacques Villeneuve, moved to the front of the field. Moreno and Villeneuve dueled for the lead until they collided on lap 44. Fittipaldi drove by to take the win, his first Indy car win on a road course. Michael Andretti charged on the final restart from sixth place, and tried to pass for the lead on the final lap, but Fittipaldi held him off by 0.33 seconds.
1987: Mario Andretti won the pole position and led all 50 laps en route to victory. It was Andretti's third win at Road America. Geoff Brabham finished second in the Judd AV machine, 41 seconds behind.
1989: Michael Andretti led Danny Sullivan in the closing laps, but both cars were running low on fuel. With two laps to go, Sullivan ducked into the pits for a splash-and-go stop for fuel. Andretti stayed out and held a 7-second lead at the white flag. Sullivan charged to catch Andretti, while Andretti was desperately conserving fuel. As they approached the Kink on the final lap, Andretti suddenly ran out of fuel. Sullivan dove to the grass to make the pass for the lead, and took the victory.
1990: A. J. Foyt lost his brakes going into turn one on lap 26, and went off the course, crashing through an embankment and into a ravine. Foyt suffered serious injuries to his legs and feet, and would require months of rehabilitation. After a lengthy red flag, Danny Sullivan was the leader of the race, with Michael Andretti second, and Emerson Fittipaldi third. Suddenly, on lap 39 Sullivan's gearbox failed, putting Michael Andretti into the lead. Andretti held off Fittipaldi over the final ten laps to win for the first time at Road America.
1991: Michael Andretti held a 19-second lead over Al Unser Jr. with two laps to go. Andretti ducked into the pits for a splash-and-go stop for fuel, and shockingly came out of the pits just ahead of Unser who was flying down the frontstretch to catch him. The two cars were nose-to-tail with a lap and a half to go when a light rain shower doused the track. Unser's car got loose in the wet conditions, and he nearly spun out in the carousel. Unser backed off the fight and Andretti held on for the victory.
1992: Paul Tracy qualified for the pole position, his first career pole in Indy car racing, and the 100th Indy car pole position for Penske Racing, but suffered a huge crash moments later. The car went off course in turn 13, went airborne, then crashed head on into two guardrails. Tracy was unhurt.Emerson Fittipaldi led 41 of the 50 laps, but in the closing laps it was a three-car battle for the lead. Fittipaldi led Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal across the finish line. The first three cars were separated by only 1.093 seconds.
1993: Paul Tracy won the pole position for the second year in a row, but again suffered a serious practice crash. Tracy raced with a sore ankle, a sore neck, and bruises on his legs and feet. Tracy led 49 of the 50 laps, and beat second place Nigel Mansell by 27 seconds.
1994: CART series rookie Jacques Villeneuve started on the front row and won his first career Indy car victory. Paul Tracy was leading his Penske teammate Al Unser Jr. and Villeneuve when a caution came out on lap 31. On the lap 36 restart, Villeneuve made a daring pass down to the inside to pass both Unser and Tracy going into turn one. Tracy bumped Villeneuve, and then Villeneuve and Unser touched, but all three cars raced away unscathed. Tracy blew his engine on lap 44, and Villeneuve drove to victory. Al Unser Jr.'s second-place finish was enough to clinch the 1994 CART championship.
1995: Jacques Villeneuve started from the pole and led 46 of the 50 laps for a dominating victory. A slippery track saw many cars go off-course, but no serious crashes. Villeneuve became the third driver to win back to back races at Road America.
1996: A wild race from start to finish. On the opening lap, polesitter Alex Zanardi touched wheels with Gil de Ferran in turn two. Zanardi slid into the grass, and de Ferran slid through a sand barrier. André Ribeiro was involved in two major incidents. On lap 14, he collided with Greg Moore, sending Moore hard into a concrete barrier, then sliding fast into a tire barrier. Six laps later, Ribeiro was battling Mark Blundell, the two cars bumped, and Maurício Gugelmin tried to pass them. He touched wheels with Gugelmin's car, and Gugelmin cut across and took out Blundell. Under a full-course yellow, Davy Jones lost control, hit a tire barrier, and the car flipped over. Parker Johnstone also went off course and flipped over. Al Unser Jr. was leading the race on the final lap when he blew his engine with two corners remaining. Michael Andretti inherited the win, holding off Bobby Rahal at the finish line.
1997: Heavy rain delayed the start by two hours, and soaked the track. At the start, Gualter Salles spun at the exit of turn one, and clipped wheels with Paul Tracy. Tracy's car spun and rammed into a tire barrier, landing upside-down. Mark Blundell led the race early with Alex Zanardi in second. On lap 36, Blundell and Zanardi pitted for fuel under a caution. Zanardi had the faster pit stop, and came out of the pits first to take the lead. Zanardi led the final 15 laps, with Blundell close behind until his engine blew with two laps to go.
CART FedEx Championship series
1998: Swift pit work during the second round of pit stops put Dario Franchitti in the lead on lap 30. Franchitti took the lead from polesitter Michael Andretti, and led the rest of the way. Andretti lost second place on the final lap when he blew a tire and crashed hard in turn 3. It was Franchitti's first career Indy car win, and the first win for car owner Barry Green since 1995. Bryan Herta narrowly escaped injury after spinning out on lap 10, and Alex Barron crashed and landed on top of his car.
2000: Paul Tracy started seventh, but an electrical glitch shut the engine off on the first lap. He was able to get the engine restarted, but dropped to the tail end of the field. Without the benefit of a full course caution, Tracy remarkably charged back to the front of the field. Tracy took the lead on lap 38 after Alex Tagliani suffered a seized gearbox. Tracy ran out of fuel on the cool down lap and had to be towed to victory lane.
2001: Rain on Saturday and Sunday morning left the track drenched with standing water. Down the backstretch toward Canada Corner, a steady stream of runoff water was cascading over the track. The race was started as scheduled, but on lap 5 Max Wilson crashed over top of Bryan Herta. The red flag was put out on lap 14, and the race would be shortened to 45 laps due to the two-hour time limit. Michael Andretti attempted to pass Christian Fittipaldi for the lead in turn five with nine laps remaining, but the two cars collided and slid high. Bruno Junqueira slipped by both cars, and drove to victory - his first in the CART series. Memo Gidley survived a horrendous crash when his car hit one of the bridge abutments.
2002: The race distance was lengthened for the second time, to 60 laps (240 miles). Cristiano da Matta took the lead on lap 39 during a sequence of pit stops, and led to the finish. It was de Matta's sixth victory of the season, and broke a three-race slump. It served as an important turning point towards winning the 2002 CART championship.
2003: A dispute between the series officials and the promoters nearly cancelled the race. However, Mario Andretti stepped in as a mediator, and the race was reinstated. Rain delayed the race twice, including a two and a half hour red flag. Ultimately, the race was shortened from 60 laps to 34 laps due to darkness. Bruno Junqueira took the lead from the pole position and led all 34 laps to win. Only 19 laps were run under green flag conditions. Points leader Paul Tracy spun out on lap 11, and was unable to continue.
Champ Car World Series
2004: Alex Tagliani started 13th and gambled on track position by pitting under green early in the race. The gamble paid off as a caution came out on lap 12, allowing Tagliani to shuffle closer to the front of the field. A controversial restart on lap 14 saw race leader Sébastien Bourdais held up behind the pace car, allowing second place Paul Tracy to get the jump going into turn one. The two cars touched, causing a bent suspension on Bourdais' car. In the closing laps, Alex Tagliani passed Rodolfo Lavín to take the win, his first Champ Car victory. The race was shortened from 52 laps to 48 laps due to a 1:45 time limit.
2006: The race returned after a one-year absence. In the closing laps, Sébastien Bourdais was leading Bruno Junqueira and A. J. Allmendinger. Bourdais was looking to win the race and clinch his third straight Champ Car championship, but he needed one final pit stop. With 7 laps to go, Bourdais ducked into the pits, and came out on the track just ahead of Allmendinger. But going into turn five, Allmendinger made the pass for the lead and pulled away. Just moments later, Katherine Legge suffered a violent crash near the Kink. The car lost part of the rear wing, sending the car into a spin and to the concrete wall at about 180 mph. The car flipped into the catch fence, broke apart, then tumbled down the track. Legge was not seriously injured, but the race was red-flagged for 42 minutes to clean up the incident. The race resumed for a two-lap sprint to the finish. A. J. Allmendinger pulled away, and Bruno Junqueira came home second.
2016: After a hiatus of eight years, Road America returns to the open wheel schedule as part of the IndyCar Series. Will Power won the pole position, beating out Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Championship leader Simon Pagenaud qualified fourth. Dixon would drop out on lap 7 with engine failure. Power would lead most of the race, with Kanaan, Graham Rahal, and Pagenaud all battling for second. On lap 40, the only caution period came out after the rear suspension on Conor Daly's car failed, sending him off course and into the wall in turn one. On the restart on lap 44, Power held his lead, while Kanaan took second. Pagenaud dropped in the standings with a misfire, and Power held on to win.
2017: Hélio Castroneves started on the pole and took the lead at the start. Josef Newgarden took second position. The race saw some teams elect to use a four pit stop strategy, while others chose a three-stop strategy. After the first round of stops, Castroneves held a narrow lead over Newgarden, with Scott Dixon third. On lap 20, Newgarden passed Castroneves for the lead and began to pull away. Takuma Sato brought out the first yellow after a spin and contact in turn 11 on lap 29. On the ensuing restart, Dixon swung to the outside of Newgarden through turn 1 and grabbed the lead. Castroneves moved past Newgarden a few turns later. After the final round of pit stops, Dixon maintained his lead, while Newgarden was able to move past Castroneves to take back second. The second caution came after Tony Kanaan crashed in turn 11 after breaking his front wing in an attempt to pass Alexander Rossi. After one final restart, Dixon drove to victory, holding off Newgarden in second.
2018: Josef Newgarden started on the pole and led 53 of the 55 laps to victory. Though Newgarden dominated most of the race up front, the battle among the rest of the top five was heated all day. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi took second and third at the start, battling much of the race, although Rossi would suffer a late tire puncture and a disappointing 16th-place finish. On the final round of pit stops, running third, Scott Dixon pitted on lap 42, while leader Newgarden and second place Hunter-Reay pitted a lap later on lap 43. Dixon on warmer tires went on a charge to try and catch the leaders while they pitted. The leaders managed to come out just ahead of Dixon, and a bobble by Dixon in turn 14, allowed them to hold off his challenge. Hunter-Reay finished second, and Dixon third.
2019: Rookie Colton Herta started on the pole, but Alexander Rossi grabbed the lead at the start. Rossi dominated the race, leading 54 of the 55 laps, and won by a commanding margin of 28.4391 seconds over second place Will Power. Rossi gave up the lead only once for one lap during his final pit stop. The race went caution-free with only one car dropping out, Marco Andretti, with mechanical problems. Polesitter Herta finished 8th.
2020 (Saturday): Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the race was rescheduled from June 21 to the weekend of July 11-12, and became a doubleheader. In the first race, polesitter Josef Newgarden led 25 of the first 27 laps, but stalled his engine during a pit stop on 28. He fell back and would finish 14th. Will Power inherited the lead on lap 30. A full-course caution on lap 38 brought Power to the pits, where he too suffered problems. Power's crew had trouble dropping the jack, which allowed Scott Dixon to take the lead. Dixon led the final sixteen laps, scoring his third straight IndyCar win to start the 2020 season.
2020 (Sunday): The second race of the doubleheader saw Patricio O'Ward start from the pole position. At the start, Will Power made contact with the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay's car, which sent Hunter-Reay spinning and crashing in turn one. Then in turn three, Power made contact side by side with Graham Rahal. Rahal lost control and spun to the grass, making hard contact with a concrete barrier. Then on lap 6, Power would spin out on his own in turn 13, bringing out the second of two yellows. Power recovered to finish 11th after placing second on Saturday. O'Ward dominated most of the race, leading 43 laps, and pulling out to as much as a 9-second lead at one point. O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist were running 1st-2nd when they made the final pits stops on laps 41 and 43, respectively. O'Ward, running the alternate red tires, held about a 5-second lead with ten laps to go. Rosenqvist began closing the gap, as O'Ward's tires were beginning to go away. Rosenqvist caught O'Ward with two laps to go, and the two cars battled side by side into turn 6 on lap 54. Rosenqvist took the lead, and led the final two laps to score his first career IndyCar win.
2021: Josef Newgarden secured his second consecutive pole, achieving the unlikely feat of qualifying on pole with harder compound primary tires. Newgarden let Alex Palou, Colton Herta, and Will Power for most of the race before his gearbox gave out on the third to last lap, handing the victory to Palou.
2022: Alexander Rossi qualified on pole. After an early series of cautions Josef Newgarden beat Rossi off pit road in the first series of green flag pit stops. Newgarden would dominate the race from that point on, holding the lead despite some late cautions. Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Marcus Ericsson took second while Rossi rounded out the podium.